“Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!” Acts 19:25-27 (NLT)
A few years ago I read a book about the history of Dutch culture. Having come from Dutch heritage and living in a town steeped in its’ Dutch past, I thought it would be an interesting read. It was.
The author argued that Dutch culture sprang from three intertwining influences. On one side there was the influence of the great Dutch Catholic philosopher, Erasmus who instilled in the Dutch the culture of education and the humanities. On the other side was the Protestant Dutch Calvinists who instilled strict morality and a strong work ethic. When the opposite poles of Catholic and Protestant influence conflicted with one another (and they always conflicted), it was the third major influence that became the tie breaker and trump card: Commerce. In other words: believe what you want across the spectrum of Catholic and Protestant doctrine, but don’t mess with business.
In today’s chapter we see a similar issue boiling to the surface. Paul’s missionary exploits were having the desired effect. Many people were putting their faith in Jesus and becoming followers of this new Christian religion called “The Way.” The idolatrous Greco-Roman culture with its dizzying array of gods did not seem to care much about this upstart religion, until it started to have an effect on the bottom line. Paul’s teaching about turning away from idolatry to the one true God created an economic recession for the local idol makers. Call the local chamber. Organize the Smith’s Union and start a rally. Don’t mess with business.
When spiritual truth is having maximum earthly effect, the spiritual transformation in individuals and communities creates systemic disruption in family systems, cultural systems, economic systems, political systems, and systems of commerce. Disruption creates anxiety. Anxiety creates fear. Fear creates strong, emotional reactivity.
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” - Jesus